Why Knowing Your Enneagram Tritype is Key for Personal Growth

Have you ever met two people of the same Enneagram type and thought there’s a night and day difference between them? Just like no two people are the same, no two types are the same either. There are multiple factors that alter how your type expresses itself, including subtypes, wings, and a word that’s become more and more buzzworthy as of late: tritypes.

You may have heard “tritype” thrown around when learning about your Enneagram type, and had a bunch of questions come to mind.

Can I really be three different types? 

Does this make me less of my core type? 

What the heck IS a tritype?

Let’s break it down.

Not one type, but three

The concept was coined by Katherine and David Fauvre, who conducted years of research on the internal experiences of each of the nine Enneagram types. They discovered that while individuals have one dominant type, they also exhibit two other types from each of the three Centers of Intelligence—meaning everyone has a type in the head, heart, and body centers. For example, you can be a dominant Type Three in the heart center but also have supporting influences of Type Six in the head center and Type Nine in the body center, making you a 369 (your dominant type is expressed as the first number of the sequence).

As you can imagine, this opens up a whole new way to approach the Enneagram. While it’s essential to understand your core type as the foundation, tritypes offer a three-dimensional and holistic view of yourself. It allows access to the wisdom in the other centers, giving you more insight into how you problem solve, react to stress, and find deeper purpose.

Why is this important?

Remember, everyone has all nine types within them to some degree. Just because you’re dominant in one type, doesn’t mean that you can’t relate to aspects of other types (after all, so many of us mistype!). Through conditioning and childhood wounding, we end up gravitating towards ONE of those types based around a core fear. In doing so, the Center of Intelligence where your type is housed becomes your primary way of filtering the world. Meanwhile, the other two centers remain a part of you but fall secondary and tertiary and can even become repressed. 

For instance, if you’re a Type Eight in the Body or Instinctual Center, you default to sensing your environment and surroundings to make decisions. Responses are very visceral and you may react immediately to stressful situations. Anger is the common emotion the body types (8, 9, 1) share and no matter how that manifests, it is the driving force of how you approach life. 

The more out of alignment you are, the more you default to an overemphasis of the Center of Intelligence your dominant type is a part of. This Type Eight, for instance, may express more anger outwardly and readily. You may also see this with a Type Four in the Feeling Center equating their feelings to their self-worth. Or, a Type Six in the Head Center prepping for the worst case scenario.

However, when the default strategy of someone’s primary Center of Intelligence doesn’t work, they may access the other centers in their tritype in response. At the same time, those that have done deeper work on themselves may exhibit more of a balance of the three centers, as this is the key to positive development. Either scenario explains why so many people of the same type can look completely different.

Let’s say a Type Eight has Type Two in their heart center and Type Six in their Head center. They have a team project at work with a tight deadline and everyone is under a lot of pressure. Where the Type Eight can be controlling and inflexible under stress, you may see this particular Eight leaning on their other centers as their strategy instead. In doing so, they may become more people-oriented and willing to listen and collaborate. Whereas, another Eight with Three and Seven in their tritype may approach the same situation by setting goals, making their energy “big” and perhaps, end up doing everything themselves. 

See how vastly different they can be?

How to find your tritype

Just like finding your Enneagram type, the best way to find the types in your other two centers is through reading about them with an emphasis on the core fear. 

You can take a test to guide you, but keep in mind tests are not always indicative of your true type, as you know yourself best. When looking at the different types, be sure to spend time with the fear and stress patterns that you may recognize in yourself. For example, if you’re a Type Six and notice your tendency to people-please and neglect your needs, you may have Type Two, The Helper, in your tritype. 

The other wonderful insight tritypes allows room for is access to two wings. Wings sit on either side of your type and are just another aspect or flavor, if you will, to your type. When looking at wings in your tritype, it helps you access the wisdom of all nine types. Most people typically have a dominant wing, but unlike your core type, your wings can change, meaning you can readily access the nine types to make the most aligned decisions.

How to use your tritype for personal growth

Human beings are systems. For us to function as our best, there must be a proper balance of the head, heart, and body. This is why using your tritype for self-development is so valuable, as it can help guide your purpose and live in alignment and abundance rather than fear and scarcity. 

In order to use your tritype to its fullest potential, you can “wake up” your centers with the following suggestions to tap into the highest expression of yourself.

Accessing the Head Center:

  • Understand the worldview of your core type. This is the subconscious belief you have stemming from your fear which shows up in the way you think, feel, and behave. Learning more about this gives you insight into how you approach situations and where you can “loosen up” your ego structure to make the best decisions for you.
  • Identify unproductive thinking loops—our thoughts affect our feelings and our actions. However, our thoughts are not always rooted in facts and we make assumptions about ourselves (or others, or situations) which can alter our own sense of self-worth. Using the power of the mind, you can slowly change your mindset to more productive and positive thinking.

Accessing the Heart Center: 

  • Find an intentional practice, such as journaling, drawing, or volunteering in the community. This allows you to access those deeper feelings that live beneath the surface so you can heal and express them in a healthy way.
  • Open up your physical heart through thymus gland tapping. This is done by tapping on your sternum in either a 1, 2, 3 rhythm or in sync with your heartbeat in order to access your heart.
  • Practice speaking from the heart, not your emotions. You may feel a certain way in the moment but explore the root of that feeling and what it’s trying to tell you.

Accessing the Body Center:

  • Practice deep breathing. This triggers a release of your autonomic nervous system, lowers heart rate, and helps you relax. You can find a technique that works for you and use it when you feel increased stress coming on. 
  • Engage in mindful movement. Tension and even repressed emotions can be stored within the body, so exercises like stretching or walking can be therapeutic for releasing emotions and shifting your thoughts and thus, your perspective.

When you balance your head, heart, and body using the insights of your tritype, you will feel in better alignment with your purpose and higher calling. 

Julianne Ishler

Julianne Ishler is a writer, Enneagram coach, and creative mentor. Obsessed with all things personality and storytelling, she helps creatives and entrepreneurs define their voice and feel empowered to follow their own path to live a life of fulfillment. She is based in Chicago and enjoys travel, rainy days, and deep conversations over hot tea.

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